Greenpeace Southeast Asia

US$ 2 million verdict against Bayer for genetic contamination by Chuck Baclagon

Contamination of normal plants by GE (genetically engineered) plants is something we’ve been shouting about for years at Greenpeace. In 2006 we released a report that showed that the “accidental” release of GE rice by Bayer into the US rice supply led to global costs of between US$ 741 million and US$ 1.285 billion.

Some of those costs are now coming home to roost. A jury in the US ruled on Friday that Bayer is to pay two Missouri farmers over US $ 2 million. Not a huge amount for a multinational company, but this ruling relates to two cases amongst thousands currently pending. If the average remains US $ 1 million per farmer, Bayer could end up dishing out a nine digit figure! Although we are all rather happy here at Greenpeace that liability is landing where it belongs, it is crazy what it takes before those responsible are brought to justice: Does our food supply have to be contaminated and millions of dollars of damage done before legislators wake up to the need to stop this stuff? Genetically Engineered strains should simply not be released into the environment: the scientific understanding of their impacts on ecosystems and human health is inadequate, and once out there, we can’t put them back in the lab. Bayer actually admitted during the trial that “[e]ven the best [containment protocols] can’t guarantee perfection” – they were always aware that contamination was possible, and even unavoidable.

This GE rice variety has never been commercially planted, and despite this, an estimated 30% of US rice stocks were contaminated. All we know is that Bayer conducted experimental field trials that were stopped in 2001, and there has been no explanation of how it occurred to this day. The next court cases begin in January with farmers from Arkansas and Mississippi – it looks like Bayer is in for a bumpy ride.

It’s time GE was assigned to the technology scrapheap and the way paved by governments and investors in agriculture for modern ecological farming.


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